We have an Idea! Now What?

Asking employees to think of the next big idea is a challenge because it takes many, many sparks to get to that golden innovation that will move the needle. Having an employee suggestion box is one way to solicit ideas from people but the age-old challenge becomes:

Who is going to sift through all those suggestions? How are they going to determine which ones are worth pursuing?

A lot of companies create idea or innovation committees to review ideas – no matter how small or how big, no matter how much information is provided. This ends up taking a lot of people’s time and spinning wheels that has resulted in a lot of process with little result.

The solution is to re-invent the process. There will still need to be reviewers of ideas but there is an easier path to travel. The key is to put the responsibility of researching and selling the idea on the shoulders of the person who suggested it. It’s too easy to suggest we should “give employees every other Friday off” with exploring and documenting its impact.

To challenge people more and minimize the reviewer’s time create an idea sheet (form) that describes…

  • WHAT the idea is
  • WHY it should be addressed
  • WHAT the costs in time, resources and money are
  • WHAT are our competitors doing
  • HOW this will move the financial needle
  • WHAT stakeholders should be involved

Answering these questions make review time more efficient and gives the idea person some ownership!

Moving From Full-Service to Self-Service KM

If you work with billable employees, you know there is a constant struggle between how much time they should spend searching for information vs. doing actual billable work. Finding and leveraging past work could increase the firm’s profitability if the re-use can drive down operational time and drive up margin.

From an expense standpoint, do you employ a full-time search specialist to search and retrieve content for consultants, or should the firm invest in technology to enable better, faster self-service?

The numbers are in and self-service should win. Why? Investing in technology does have an upfront investment component to make information more findable but relying on a search specialist leaves the organization vulnerable if that person should move on and take all the intimate knowledge of our work with him/her.

The more billable employees can get their hands directly on content, the more knowledge they have about our previous work, the better equipped they are to present our collective stories in a compelling manner to clients and the more connected they will be to other employees.

The former model connects them to one person; creating a self-service model connects them to many.

Moving from a full-service to a self-service model is a challenging exercise in change management. One that requires the following:

  • Visible sponsorship: A leader’s endorsement is appreciated but visibly promoting and expecting people to engage in new work models and tools goes above just a behind-closed-doors “good idea” compliment.
  • Easy technology: So many platforms exist to enable easy uploading, tagging, commenting and sharing of information. Whatever your platform, it must make people’s jobs easier. Remember that nothing is easier than emailing a search specialist to request they spend time finding and retrieving something you need. But, in the long run, self-service pays back in other ways so demonstrating the simplicity of the process is essential for adoption.
  • Courage (and support) to say “no”: It’s not easy telling someone that instead of searching for them that I will tell you how to do it yourself. Squeaky wheels get the grease, and leadership may be inclined to give in to that person who refuses to post or find information on their own. We must change our behavior to help them change theirs.
  • Reinforce Behavior (again and again and again): Dipping people into one training session and then releasing them into the new frontier doesn’t cut it when changing behavior. In addition to driving people one-on-one to new tools and processes, show success.
    • Try spotlighting a monthly search success to reinforce how easy it is on your intranet.
    • Get champions to live and breath and offer to help those who are having difficulty following the self-service model.
    • Equip managers to hold people accountable for adoption.
    • Be careful with incentives. Incentives sometimes require upping the ante every year to sustain and that, in and of itself, is unsustainable.
    • Appeal to emotion. This is a last resort if stubbornness prevails. Communicate that the new normal is connecting and sharing. If you don’t connect, you’ll be missing the bus!